October is the month of the Holy Rosary. I remember in my teenage years, ‘October Devotions’ being held every Sunday afternoon in my local parish. I attended these devotions faithfully and never saw them as obligatory. I just turned up and for most of my teenage life was faithful to attending and participating in these devotions. As an adult, taking part in these devotions has not been so regular. Many parishes do not support communal prayer services and devotions outside of Mass times or only offer something extra in Lent. However, when I do get the chance to take part, I do so with fondness for the devotion and for times past, whilst remembering those faithful men and women who steadfastly held those beads in their hands praying fervently for all things dear to them.
But what are the ‘October Devotions’? The devotions consist of the Rosary, the Litany of Our Lady of Loreto, the October prayer to St. Joseph, and prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions. More often than not these devotions were coupled with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.
It was Pope Leo XIII who instigated the practice of dedicating the month of October to the Rosary. He admonished the faithful to pray the Rosary every day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in order to obtain through her intersession, the grace that God would console and defend the Church in her sufferings. This practice began in 1883 and the prayer to St. Joseph was added in 1889. As with all pious practices and devotions, indulgences are granted to those who pray this devotion.
Pope Pius XI again commended the Rosary to the faithful and quoted Pope Leo as follows,
“Among the various supplications with which we successfully appeal to the Virgin Mother of God, the Holy Rosary without doubt occupies a special and distinct place. This prayer, which some call the Psalter of the Virgin or Breviary of the Gospel and of Christian life, was described and recommended by Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII.”
The Rosary followed its traditional format of meditating on five joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries until Saint John Paul II added five more mysteries for meditation – the Mysteries of Light or Luminous mysteries. In 2002, writng in his Apostolic Letter, “Rosarium Virginis Mariae” Pope John Paul II reminded us that the Rosary, though Marian in character, is indeed a Christocentric prayer. He wrote, “ it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.”
Further he continued;
Twenty-four years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: “The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth. […]. It can be said that the Rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter which discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life”.
With such great witness and testimony and with the past encouragement of ptrevious Popes we cannot fail but to pray with our brothers and sisters across the world, offering our praying of the rosary, for world peace, the family and in particualr at this time, the Synod on the Family. While most prayer books contain the prayers of the Rosary and the Litany, they do not always include the October prayer to St. Joseph. It is printed here:
October Prayer to Saint Joseph
To thee, O blessed Joseph, we fly in our tribulation and, after imploring the help of thy holy Spouse, with confidence we ask also for thy intercession. By the affection which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by the paternal love with which thou didst embrace the Child Jesus, we beseech thee to look kindly upon the inheritance which Jesus Christ acquired by his precious blood, and with thy powerful aid to help us in our needs.Protect, most careful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen people of Jesus Christ. Keep us, loving father, from all pestilence of error and corruption. From thy place in heaven be thou mercifully with us, most powerful protector, in this warfare with the powers of darkness; and, as thou didst once rescure the Child Jesus from imminent danger of death, so now defend the holy Church of God from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Guard each of us by thy constant patronage, so that, sustained by thy example and help, we may live a holy life, die a holy death, and obtain the everlasting happiness of heaven. Amen.